Spectacular scenes were caught on video this weekend as a huge humpback whale launched itself out of the water, reaching towards a pair of tandem kayakers and narrowly missed them as it landed, pounding down on the waters of Monterey Bay, California, reports Time.
The humpback whale landed merely feet away from the kayak, and the force of its impact threw the kayakers into the water. Luckily, the pair, wearing life vests, resurfaced a few seconds later and emerged unharmed from the perilous encounter, with fellow kayakers helping them back to shore.
Footage of the humpback whale and its dramatic breach was recorded by passenger Larry Plants, who was enjoying a whale tour near Moss Landing Harbor.
Capt. Michael Sack of Sanctuary Cruises witnessed the event and gave an account to local news station KSBW.
“A large aggregation of humpbacks (were) feeding. There were also a lot of kayakers right in the middle of it all. The next thing we knew, this thing launched right on top of these two kayakers. It was very scary to watch. Kayaking with whales can be extremely dangerous. This was one of the most dangerous situations that I’ve seen out here. I’m not sure if at this point these two know how lucky they were. They came very close to getting crushed to death by the mighty humpback whale.”
Humpback whales can grow up to 62 feet long, weigh 50 tons, and current advice recommends people get no closer than 100 meters to whales, or 300 meters if in a boat.
Scientists still don’t fully understand why humpback whales exhibit this behavior. Breaching could be a competitive display between aggressive males, a warning sign to perceived threats, a form of long-distance communication through sound waves, or even a way of stunning prey. Sack added “One should realize that humpback whales are wild animals and totally unpredictable. It’s a very uncontrolled environment out there.”
The two kayakers, Tom Mustill, who by coincidence is a Wildlife filmmaker for the BBC, and Charlotte Kinloch, from London, spoke to BBC TV’s London News.
Kinloch’s quote is below.
“We’re still coming to terms with the fact we still alive, To me it felt l like a building had grown out of the water. It was so enormous. You could see barnacles on the whale, just amazing.”
Mustill felt grateful and surprised by their luck.
“I don’t think either of us believe it we’re still alive. We were shot out of the kayak by the force of it. We both thought we were dead.”
[Photo via AOL On Screen Capture]